You pull into the drive-thru, bleary-eyed, and you order your morning cup of joe to start your day. Have you ever considered how this daily habit impacts the planet we share? When you idle in the drive-thru, you emit carbon into the air. The disposable cup you toss in the garbage bin takes years to decompose. That tiny stirrer too often ends up in the ocean where it chokes marine life. But you can make your coffee habit more sustainable — here’s how to be a sustainable coffee drinker.
1. Buy A Reusable Tumbler (Or Several)
Ditch the disposable cup, please. Typical coffee shop cups take 20 years to decompose. This doesn’t sound terrible — until you realise consumers tear through billions of these cups each year.
Plus, that plastic lid contributes to ocean pollution. By the year 2050, scientists predict there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean if people don’t change their ways. This creates unsightly garbage patches and kills marine life — birds, marine mammals and fish mistake plastic for food. Since they can’t digest it, they slowly starve to death with bellies full of discarded trash.
2. Select Recyclable Coffee Pods
Did you know you can recycle your K-Cups? While it does take a bit more effort depending on the type — you may need to remove coffee grounds and the aluminum top before you toss the cup in the plastics bin — you can reduce waste this way.
Better yet, opt for coffee pods in 100% recyclable packaging. This way, you save yourself a few steps on those busy mornings.
3. Brew Your Coffee At Home
Even if you get out of your car to go inside, you emit carbon when you drive to the coffee shop. Plus, you spend a small fortune. Why not brew your coffee at home? Homebrewing gets you your java infusion more quickly and uses less energy. Plus, you can customize your brew by adding cinnamon, turmeric or other herbs right to the grounds to boost nutritional value and flavour.
4. Consider An Alternate Means Of Brewing
You can pick up a coffeemaker for around $20 at most stores. Why are these so cheap? They’re not built to last — which means they create a lot of plastic waste.
Instead, consider a manual coffee maker. These last a lifetime even though they do cost a bit more upfront. No money to invest in a machine right now? Consider cold-brewing, in which you seep course grounds in water for 6-12 hours.
5. Get A Reusable Filter
With the passage of the Farm Bill, farmers can now grow sustainable hemp to make things like coffee filters. However, until these become widely available, paper coffee filters result in countless lost trees. When purchasing, seek one that removes diterpenes, chemicals in coffee that raise cholesterol levels if you have cardiovascular issues.
6. Consider A Milk Alternative
Dairy farming contributes to global warming. Cows release methane into the air, so consider reducing demand by switching to almond, rice or soy milk.
If you have issues with estrogen balance, steer clear of soy milk. Soy contains phytoestrogen, which can impact natural hormone balance in some people.
7. Look For Fair Trade Certified Organic Products
Coffee farms consist of peaceful farms and torturous sweat mills. To minimize your impact, look for fair trade certified Brazilian coffee bean brands to ensure farmers receive fair compensation for their labour. Also, seek out organic beans — while nothing is 100 percent foolproof, this minimizes your exposure to dangerous pesticides.
8. Compost Your Coffee Grounds
Coffee grounds contain high nitrogen levels, which benefits plants. You can add coffee grounds to your compost bin or spread a fine amount directly around plants. Take care to avoid smothering plants in grounds — a few sprinkles are all you need to boost soil quality.
Making Your Morning Cuppa More Sustainable
Your choices determine how kind your morning cuppa is to the environment. If you care about the planet we share, follow the tips above to make your morning brew more enjoyable and sustainable.
Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work.